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Business Briefing

Google's Mobile OS Chief Confident in Dual Strategy

Google
May 13, 2013 10:53AM

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While Google has a new chief in charge of its mobile OS, it appears not much else is changing for Google's mobile strategy. Sundar Pichai is signaling that Google will continue to push both the Chrome and Android operating systems. "The picture may look different a year or two from now, but in the short term... we are not changing course."

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Monday brought plenty of buzz around Google's mobile OS plans in the wake of Wired's exclusive interview with Sundar Pichai, the new head of Google's Android Mobile Software Division.

Pichai took over in March 2013, after Andy Rubin stepped down. He joined Google in 2004 and served as senior vice president of Chrome and Apps before being picked to add Rubin's responsibilities to his mix.

Pichai has big shoes to walk in. Android was wildly successful under Rubin's watch. Google reports there are now more than 750 million devices around the globe that sport Android. A whopping 1.5 million new Android activations are logged every day.

Will Strategy Change?

In a lengthy interview, Pichai said his views haven't changed much about the coexistence of Chrome and Android. He explained that Android and Chrome are both fast-growth large, open platforms. He thinks they will both play a strong role in mobile and denies any consumer confusion.

"Users care about applications and services they use, not operating systems. Very few people will ask you, 'Hey, how come MacBooks are on Mac OS-X and iPhone and iPad are on iOS? Why is this?' They think of Apple as iTunes, iCloud, iPhoto. Developers are people, too. They want to write applications one time, but they also want choice," Pichai said.

In the short run, he said, nothing changes. And, in the long run, computing itself will dictate the changes. For now, he characterizes the current moment as pivotal.

"It's a world of multiple screens, smart displays, with tons of low-cost computing, with big sensors built into devices," he said. "At Google, we ask how to bring together something seamless and beautiful and intuitive across all these screens. The picture may look different a year or two from now, but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course."

Will Chrome Land on Phones?

We caught up with Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the revelations shared by Sundar Pichai.

Greengart says nothing much appears to have changed with Google's mobile strategy: Pichai is signaling that Google will push both Chrome OS and Android OS, and that there are times and places for HTML apps and native apps.

"The interesting thing is there used to be this notion that there were two separate parties in Google who fought each over what the future is, HTML or native. Now those two warring parties, if they ever were warring, are under a single group. So that's an interesting internal political dynamic at Google," Greengart said.

"If Google doesn't do Chrome OS someone else will. The Firefox OS is working in that direction. Although it's interesting to note that Firefox OS is not aimed at notebooks and desktops the way the Chrome OS is. It's aimed directly at phones. So that is an area that he did not address, whether we will see Chrome OS for phones. I expect that we will, but he didn't talk about that in the interview."

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